tv Meet the Press NBC April 4, 2010 10:00am-11:00am EDT
rnbc captions paid for by nbc-universal television this sunday, back to work. the nation posts its largest job gain in three years. unemployment remai unchanged at 9.7%. are the millions of jobs lost during this recession ever coming back? what stimulus options does the administration have left? our exclusive guest this morning, chair of the white house council of economic advisors, dr. christina romer. then the terror threat inside the u.s., a new warning to the
nation's governors sur fashion as a violent antigovernment plot is uncovered. new airport screening rules in response to the christmas day bombing scare. with us, chairman of the homeland security committee, senator joe lieberman, a congressman jane harman, democrat in california, former secretary of homeland security, michael chertoff. finally, the president's leadership. where does he stand after the health care debate and how will he lead nis party in this election year. insights from the editors. new yorker magazine editor and author of the new book "the bridge," david remnick. and editor of "time" magazine, author of "mandela's way," rick stengel. first, the economy. the president welcomed the positive job growth numbers on friday saying the u.s. is beginning to turn the corner. with us live, the chair of his
council of economic advisors, dr. christina romer. welcome back to "meet the press." >> great to be with you. >> this was the positive news, 162,000 jobs that were created in the month of march. some of those temporary workers working on the census, and those who are sort of underemployed takes that unemployment rate still higher. yet with those caveats, what did this mean? >> it meant we certainly had positive job growth. even when you take out what you mentioned, which is the effect of the census workers. we had some 48,000 people hired by the census in march. we also probably had a snow rebound effect. we think the big storms push down the numbers in february and artificially pushed them up in march. even taking those into account, we think we had good solid employment growth. as the president said, that's the beginning. >> the worst is over? >> certainly we have been seeing gradually job losses mod rate.
we've now crossed the zero line. i anticipate we'll continue to see positive job growth as we go forward. what i'll be focusing on is how big does it get. as you mentioned, we've got a big hole when it comes to jobs. >> speaking of that, your colleague treasury secretary tim geithner spoke to matt lauer on the "today show." he said something striking. let's show it. >> the unemployment rate is still terribly high. it's going to stay unacceptably high for a long period of time. >> people will ask why and wonder whether we're dealing with a 21st century economy where significant job creation is not possible. >> i think that's certainly not true. obviously i absolutely think we will be creating a lot of jobs. the fact that the unemployment rate stayed constant this month at some level is pretty amazing. >> 9.7%. >> 9.7%, which as secretary geithner said, absolutely unacceptable. behind that there's been a tremendous increase in the labor
force. over the last three months we've added more than a million people to the labor force. that's a great sign. that's a sign that people that might have been discouraged dropped out because of the terrible recession, have started to have hope again and are looking for work again. >> why will it be so high for so long? >> i think part of it is we still face a lot of headwinds. this recession has been a terrible one, an unusual one having been caused by a financial crisis, created a lot of fear. we still have some trouble with debt and credit availability. all of that makes it harder for us to grow. so most of the forecasts are that we'll grow about 3% real gdp in 2010. that's not enough to get a lot of job growth. we'll get positive job growth. lit be enough to bring the unemployment rate down a little bit. you need faster than that to really make a dent. >> members of the president's own party, congressmen and women at hearings recently have raised
real concerns about the priority that jobs have, job creation has wherein the administration. this was one such xloint aired at a hearing where you were present. we'll show it now. >> i find your testimony dismaying and out of touch. and i ask myself how can we be so far apart in our views? your testimony doesn't even mention the total number of unemployed and underemployed and marginally attacked in our country. that number, for your information, is 25 million people. people aren't working. on page three, astoundingly, you concede unemployment won't go down. you have no urgency. >> so the question becomes what options does the president have left to try to spur job creation? >> well, the first thing i want to say is we have tremendous urgency. if you think about what we've done over the last year, the
president has always made it clear jobs was number one. that's why within a month of when he came into office he passed the biggest fiscal stimulus in american history. we've done repeated things, the cash for clunkers, extending the first time home buyers credit. starting last fall, the president was talking about additional things we can do. we just did one of them, the higher act that was signed a couple weeks ago had one of the things i think can be very effective, a tafx incentive for hiring, very opt misses tick. that's sort of the right policy for this stage in the recovery. we see firms starting to hire temporary workers. we see demand coming back. we think this will help push them over. the president has emphasized small business lending. there are programs pending in congress that we've proposed, $30 billion small business lending that we think could be very important. we've supported zero capital gains tax for people who invest in small business. we think that's a good policy to help start new firms get job creation that way.
>> what about an energy jobs bill? would that be a priority? >> absolutely. the president -- starting with the recovery act, investing in clean energy is a smart thing, making us a healthier economy in the future. we have a program for encouraging energy retrofits. i also want to mention, before congress left, they failed to extend the unemployment insurance provisionless of the recovery act. that absolutely has to get done. the numbers we see, the 9.7% unemployment, we've got to be supporting those workers. by supporting them, we support the whole economy. >> you mention the stimulus has a uj effort by this administration to deal with people out of work and deal with the recession. guy brack to members of the president's own party, raising concerns about how effective it's been. we see in polling that people are still not feeling it, still not very popular. "the new yorker" reported recently quoting a democrat from virginia saying this, we should
have gone in and done the kind of stimulus that would actually turn the economy around. we ended up with something that was strong enough to prevent a depression. but it just wasn't strong enough to stimulate the recovery. would you concede that it didn't do as much as you thought it would have done to spark recovery? >> absolutely not. i think it has done exactly what we said it would do. and i think -- >> clearly it didn't do what you said it would do, which is to keep unemployment at 8%. >> what we said it would do, to save or create some 3.5 million jobs. it's absolutely on track to do that. i think it's a big part because the reason we've seen, as the president said, we're beginning to turn the corner. experts across the ideological spectrum give the recovery act a lot of credit for the dramatic change in the trajectory that we have seen. it has absolutely supported unemployed workers, absolutely helped state and local governments. we are investing in this country in a way that is helping to create jobs and making us more productive in the future.
>> on the issue of job creation, i've spoken to business leaders who say look at the health care debate, look how rancorous it was, even about the health care's impact down the road. look at the talk about regulation and what some people see as an anti business climate in washington in general and the administration specifically. if you're a small or large business, why would you build a factory today? why would you start hiring workers? >> i think you'd build a factory because we see the economy starting to grow again. i think there will be profit opportunities. i have to come back to health care, first, we've gotten a lot of certainty because the bill has finally passed. i think that's a fabulous development. also, it's such a pro business bill, especially pro small business. it has been designed precisely to do what small business owners tell us they want to do, which is provide health insurance for their workers. they think that gives them a competitive advantage to be able to offer that. this bill has some $40 billion of tax credits for small
businesses. exempts them from any employer responsibility fees. it gives them an insurance exchange to get insurance for their workers at a cheaper price. it is a big win -- >> dr. roamer, there are also people who say it doesn't do the number one thing, which is really attack costs out of control. here is one anecdote i heard. if you are cutting back on reimbursements to providers or hospitals through medicare, those costs don't go away, they get shifted so employees of companies will pay higher prices for other tests in hospitals, and it's still very much there despite the fact this bill is law. >> i think that's completely wrong. i'd ask you to read the congressional budget office's own report where they say for small and large businesses, it will lower the health insurance premiums. >> you don't think the costs will get shifted, you don't think they'll pass that cost on? >> i think overall this will slow the growth rate of costs.
we think it will do it by one percentage point per year. that's what experts are saying. we did a comparison of what was in the cbo report from more than a year ago of game changers, almost every one of those ended up in this bill. >> i want to ask you about a phenomenon that people are talkstion about this weekend that has to do with consumers, ap el's new product, the ipad. commerce in action. people are buying these products. but it leads to a question as to whether you think as an economist that consumers can actually drive a recovery that is sustained? >> i think this is going to be a different kind of recovery. i think it's not going to be one where consumers come roaring back as the engine of growth. they have been through a very rough two years. they've seen their house prices come down. so we see solid consumer growth. it's definitely coming back. their confidence is back up. this is not going to be a
recovery that's fueled by people going out, maxing out their credit cards again. i think we've been -- i think we're in a different world. it's going to need to come from our exports. that's why the president is pushing his export initiative. it's going to need to come from business investment. that's why measures like a zero capital gains for small businesses, or tax incentives for investment, i think those are the right policies to make sure we get a healthy growth going forward. >> before i let you go, a couple other important topics. financial regulation, the new rules of the road for wall street. do you think a bill will be successful this year since you've suffered some setbacks with republicans starting to back away from support of it? >> yes, i think it will. i think it has to. i think people from both parties realize we do need sensible rules of the road because we don't ever want to go through this again. we're very confident we'll be able to pick up some republican support. >> also china. will this administration take china on and accuse it out right
of manipulating its currency in a way that hurts the u.s. exports, but also costs us jobs? >> certainly the exchange rate is an issue, not just for the united states, but for chinese consumers and actually other countries, a lot of other emerging market economies say what's happening with china's exchange rate is harmful to them. we have a series of meetings over the next three months with both the president, secretary of treasury, and this sabs lutly going to being an issue high on the agenda. >> is china manipulating its currency? >> that's going to be something that the secretary of treasury would speak on. >> but as a matter of substance, why can't you say -- it either is or it's not. >> we think it needs to be more influenced by market forces. there's no question of that. the secretary of treasury and the president have both said that. we're going to be working to get the kind of result that we want, which is something more in alignment. >> finally a political question. i know you're not involved in
the politics. politicians will campaign on promises and facts. a lot of times they turn to the economists and say is this a fair thing to be campaigning on. should democrats be campaigning this fall, taking credit for turning the sxhee around? >> unquestionably. i think the policies that have been put in place, tough decisions on ever thirng from the recovery act to the stress test to the financial rescue. every one of those was absolutely successful. it's the reason we're in a more hopeful place today than a year ago. i think they should be out there saying they made the tough choices and we're starting to see the benefits. >> dr. romer, happy easter. thanks for being here. up next, the terror threat. new airport screening rules and the growing problems inside this country. michael chertoff, senator joe lieberman and a member of the house homeland security committee congresswoman jane harman. the question of presidential
press" where we'll have a discussion coming up on president obama and the politics of 2010 with our roundtable. that's in a few minutes. first, a closer look at security here and abroad with the former secretary of homeland security michael chertoff and two key members of congress, representative jane harman and senator joe lieberman. a few things we want to address including developing news from earlier today in bagdad, suicide bombers have struck some 30 dead after attacks on several embassies, the egyptian, iranian and german embassies in central bagdad. senator lieberman, a reminder as we plan to disengage combat troops and after an election where there's still a shaky coalition going forward, what concerns you seeing this? >> you have to look at the good news first. there was an election there. the secular parties, the parties
that iran didn't want to succeed did better than the other parties. there's a lot of good news happening in iraq. i think what you have to see these bombings as is a desperate attempt by the people who don't want a unified iraq that's independent of iran and self-governing and self-protecting the take hold. but it is a warning to us. we're on a path now which is an extraordinary positive path to bring down our troop levels to 50,000 by september 1st. there were way up to 150, 160,000 not so long ago. we have to do it methodically and make sure the iraqis can protect themselves and all they've gained as a result of all that we've helped them do in the last few years. so this is not over, but tremendous progress, militarily, politically, economically is being made in iraq. >> congresswoman t question of capacity for the new government
in terms of securing the country is one that is going to be asked again and again, not only when there's political instability but when you sue events like this? >> that's true. i agree with joe lieberman that this is basically a success story. i applaud the obama government for withdrawing our troops on a reasonable schedule which i think tell it is iraqis they have to manage their future. that's a message we need to send, by the way, to the folks in afghanistan as well where i'm very troubled by the comments of hamid karzai in the last several days. >> we'll get to that. i want to talk about the terror threat and bring in secretary chertoff about these new screening rules that just came about on friday where individuals coming from other countries are going to be evaluated a little differently. "the new york times" summarized how the intelligence will be used to identify people who need additional screenings. the intelligence based security system is deviced to raise flags about travel lersz who names don't appear on a no-fly watch
list, but whose travel patterns or personal traits create suspicions. the system is intended to pick up fragments of information, family name, nationality, age or even partial passport number and match them against intelligence reports to sound alarm bells before a passenger boards a plane. secretary chertoff, i should point out in full disclosure, you now work for companies in the homeland security area that are producing some of the technology that may be brought to bare. that said, what's the impact of these new rules. >> what this basically does, david, is takes a technique we've used at the border newspaper the last two or three years and it pushes it out. it applies when people board planes overseas. we have a lot of experience using this kind of information. it has worked exceptionally well when people arrived at the airport. so the idea of pushing it out before people board makes a lot of sense. a critical issue here is will our allies and other countries
overseas be willing to implement the plan the way we have laid it out? if they are willing to do that, it will be a win-win for everybody. >> you've got to be able to share intelligence with foreign governments to sort of factor into a kind of matrix so you're not profiling somebody based on where they're from, but based on certain red flags in the system that say i, hey, i better correlate this? >> if i could add to this, after the christmas bomb plot, we i think in linear fashion targeted 14 countries and said everyone coming here from those 14 countries will get secondary screening. i think that was a message to those countries that was the wrong message. janet napolitano, our home land security secretary who has annually succeeded michael chertoff has traveled extensi extensively to foreign governments and this plan worked out with him. it's an intelligence based screening system rather than name based. we're adding to our no-fly list and secondary list.
but this is the way to capture folks who don't fit the stereotype of a muslim male between 20 and 40. let's understand that terrorists come in all shapes and sizes and not even all muslim. i recent that jihad jane took my name. that's the point. they come in the u.s. they're all over the world. it seems going forward we'll be doing something much more effective. >> snatd tore lieberman, let me ask you about another big headline, the horror in russia with the railway attacks carried out by terrorist groups. it was something that would reverberate here in the u.s., the cover of the "new york post" showing increased police presence on new york subways as a response to that. the president talked a little bit about what the government is doing to head off a kind of railway attack when he appeared on the "today" program this week. >> we have been on top of the issue of rail security and subway security for quite some time. we constantly monitor it and try to figure out how can we improve
what we're doing. it is obviously a significant concern. it's not restricted to subways. same thing could happen at a bus terminal. if you've got somebody who determined to kill themselves and kill other people with them, that's always a challenge for any government. >> what's the nature of the threat, senator, here in america? >> the threat is real to nonaviation transportation. all you've got to do is look around the world, not only to the terrible tragedy in rash yeah last week, but remember the train bombings in london and madrid and earlier in mumbai. so these are targets. and we know that and we're doing a lot, our government is, working with state and local officials to both in ways that are visible and ways that are not visible to raise our defenses on trains and subways and buses.
but, david, to me -- in our committee we've done hearings on this and i continue to believe that this -- that nonaviation is the vulnerable part of our transportation system. we frankly need to give it more than we're giving it now to protect the american people. i worry about this. >> secretary chertoff, i want to get to some domestic terror concerns, but before i do that i want to talk about another element of terrorism. you were head of the criminal division in the justice department. this issue of civilian trilsz for terror suspects is one you're quite familiar with. now, clearly, kol lead shaikh mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, the question is where will he be tried? you fought to have moussaoui tried in civilian court, the 20th high-jacker. where do you come down? >> generally my overall approach is use all the tools.
everything should be on the table for every circumstance. that being said, the general approach we took when i was head of criminal was, if someone was caught in the u.s., at the end of the day they wound up tried in a u.s. court for a whole lot of practical and legal reasons, including the fact it eelsz easy to get the evidence if someone is act nk the united states itself. it doesn't mean you have to give miranda warnings. generally the view was, if someone was caught overseas and they weren't an american, we didn't bring them into a uchltd s. court because there are huge obstacles to gathering evidence and some of the process issues when you apprehend someone in a battlefield. without laying down an ironclad rule, my general approach is catch them here, try them here. catch them overseas, put them in a military -- >> you think it's okay to put them in a civilian court, khalid shaikh mohammed. >> i would advise against it. the evidence collection issues and legal issues you'll find, even picking a jury, if you set this up in a military base will
be very problematic. i think it's a very, very difficult way to go. >> congresswoman? >> i think our federal court system has been the linchpin of our ability to convicted people of terrorism related crimes since 9/11. over 500 people charged, over 300 pleaded guilty, all safely behind bars for life. i think sf ksm were tried in a federal court, i would predicted he would be convicted and possibly executed. >> if you stand behind our system of law in this country, why did the attorney general go out and say he would never be released if he were never convicted. >> everyone still at gitmo, 183 people, should be tried either in uchltd s. courts including military commissions if that, for some reason, if we revise the procedures there and they can withstand legal challenge or
tried abroad and incarcerated. i don't think we should wave the rule of law for anybody. >> i want to move on because i want to get to domestic security threats. yes, senator lieberman? -q . we were attacked on 9/11. think when you're at war, even though this is a different kind of war, people you capture, enemies who are aiming to attack u or having, in fact, attacked you, ought to be tried according to the rules of war. it's which rule of law. so i think that the christmas day bomber, hasan at ft. hood, they're as much enemies of ours as the people we capture and put into prison or war camps in afghanistan or iraq. >> all right. this debate will continue certainly until the president makes a decision on what's going to happen with ksm. i want to turn to the domestic threat.
a lot of developments about this more recently including this christiane militia in michigan, facing charges of a violent plot to over throw a government. mike is kof writes in "newsweek's" plog about the conditions under which this is happening. in some respects, the increase in such violent hate groups as the hewitt ree appears reminiscent of the surge. fueled in large part by anger over the economy and barack obama's presidency. the number of identifiable patriot groups increased 244% from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009. senator lieberman, back to you. in this highly charged political atmosphere where you've got so much passion, so much disagreement, this takes it, of course, to a different level. we're also operating in a recession and at a time where there's a lot of anger at washington.
how is the nature of that threat escalated in your view? >> well, the threat is definitely escalated. all the conditions that you mentioned, david, are there to encourage people. look, i would say a word of caution to my colleagues in both political parties and, frankly, in the media. the level of discourse about our politics and about our country are so extreme and so incendiary that, if you're dealing with people who may not be clicking on all cylinders and may have vulnerabilities personally, there's a danger that they're going to do what this group of militia plan to do this week. i would not overstate this threat. it is not as significant as the global threat of islamist extremism, but it is real. i want to assure the american people as the chairman of the homeland security committee, your government is taking this threat very seriously. the fbi is on top of this. that's why through good work and
informants they stopped this hutaree group before they had a chance to do what that want to do, to attack law enforcement officers to break down authority in our country. >> congresswoman, you had a threat to governors as well, a letter telling them they needed to step down. >> that's right. the other troubling thing is that group was going to import the terror tactics used by al qaeda and other groups, using ieds to blow up the funeral procession for these officers that they were going to execute. let's understand that law enforcement does a wonderful job of keeping this country safe. without the women and men of law enforcement who kept our capital safe during the protests on health care, i think we'd be in much worse trouble. but the point is that not all terror groups are muslim groups, and not all of them are al qaeda related. this is a global problem. do mess cli we have a growing problems of home ground terrorism, not just from
muslims. >> secretary chertoff, you've seen this from your position before. there are certainly corners of racism around the country, african-american president, extreme economic anxiety and a lot of revolution talk to policies like health care. people may forget, if you go back to the oklahoma city bombings, tim mcvay went to way co-to protest the brady gun law. this notion of the government doing things to you oovps is a very powerful motivator to some. >> you always get fringe groups on both sides of the spectrum, going back to way cco and ruby ridge. that depressed us a little bit. it also lurks in the background. we see it with some of the anti globalization and animal rights people on the left. i think we've learned how to manage this. i agree with senator lieberman, this is not of the order of magnitude of what we see with global terrorism. look, the fact that people can get on the internet and they can
see the tactics that are being used in iraq and afghanistan creates a risk that those will be copycatted here. we've seen that in northern mexico, the criminal groups which are not politically motiva motivated, actually have adopted be headings and other tap ticks of terrorism for pushing their agenda against president calderon. >> senator lieberman you've heard the president say he would like to see sanctions against iran within weeks, but that's still been a very difficult road. do you worry that the u.s. and the west more generally is drifting toward war with iran in some fashion? >> well, i appreciated the president's statement. i tell you the truth, i worry more we won't do enough to stop iran from developing a nuclear weapon quickly enough. i believe we're at a turning point in history. iran with nuclear weapons is going to mean this world will be
a lot less safe than it is today. there are already threats to our safety every day. this is an extremist, expansionist power. there's never been another country like this with nuclear weapons. we've got to impose tough sanctions quickly. i believe congress will adopt a tough sanctions bill soon, i hope this month of april. secondly, they've got to be tough because, frankly, it's the last chance that we're giving iran and ourselves not to be left with a choice of either accepting them having nuclear weapons or taking military action. in my opinion, we have to be prepared to take military action, to stop the iranian nuclear program if they refuse to stop themselves. so far, if you look at the last three or four years, we've had threats, we've had engagement, we've had negotiations, and all the while iran keeps going
forward to build a nuclear weapon and the missiles to deliver them. that will destabilize the entire middle east, threaten europe and america. >> this past week i was in yemen, cutter and vienna where we have a new very strong head of the iaea, a japanese man named amano who has what he calls a more balanced view and has major concerns about iran. why am i saying this? i think the real test will be what the un will do. i think it's good news chinese premier hu is coming here in two weeks to a terrorism summit with 45 countries. hopefully that will be a chance for him and president obama to talk about the un where china and russia's support for multi lateral sanctions is key. congress is on board with strong debilitating sanctions on a bipartisan basis. the u.s. will be there. but it has to be multi lateral to be truly debilitating. by the way, yemen is now ground zero in my view for terror
attacks against us. alaki who is an american yemeni who had a role in counseling the ft. hood shooter and also was involved in training the christmas bomber is at large in yemen, targeted by the yemenese, and we're helping. it will be very good news if we can take him out. >> i'm make that the last word. thank you very much. up next, presidential leadership, where does obama stand after the hlth care debate and how will he lead his party in this election year? insights from "the new yorker" magazine's david remnick author of "the bridge" and "time" magazine's rick stengel, author of "mandela's way."
"mandela's way." welcome both of you. interesting opportunity to talk about the president's leadership at this stage and where he stands. let's look at his approval ratings as he comes out of this health care debate as measured by gallup, 47% approve, 57% disapproval. this has been a tough debate he's come through. he has achieved on health care. where is he right now, david? >> any time you have 10% unemployment, you're not going to have soaring approval. any time the economy is troubled in many areas, you're not going to have soaring approval ratings, despite the personal popularity of barack obama. so i think, you know, he's not in trouble, but he's not going to be able to lift all democratic votes in november. it's going to be a tough road in november. >> rick, you talk about achievement in the first term. grou back to july of 2008, a "rolling stone" interview about what would be the marker, the metric for success for a president obama. the question was what would the marker be at the end of your
first term, where you say if this has happened or not happened, i would consider it a negative mark. he says if i haven't gotten combat troops out of iraq, passed health care insurance and speaking to our dependence on global oil and deals seriously with global warn warming, we've missed the boat. >> couple weeks ago he was going to be jimmy carter, and then health care passed. he has a whole lineup of things he wants to do, including financial deregulation, energy policy. he could go and swing and run around the bases this whole first year. basically he said, you know what? this is what i said i was going to do. i did it and now vote for me. >> the flip side of accomplishment -- obviously presidents come to accomplish things. ultimately taking the measure of him as a leader, something you've done in the course of the work on the book, what have we
learned about barack obama as president that is informed by his ascent? >> we've learned -- his political patterns have always been clear. he's a man of center left, a deep pragmatist, his style is conciliation. his style is to put his arms around as many people as possible and try to bring them to a compromise. we saw that in the health care situation. the question is, will it apply in some of these other big questions that you raise, like nuclear iran. i don't think putting your arms around mahmoud ahmadinejad is work to work. that's a situation that imperils us all in a serious way, and we have to get international cooperation on an unprecedented level in order to take the measures necessary to reverse global warming. no single leader can do that either. it's going to take a lot of effort and a lot of conciliation with other leaders around the world. >> joe klein of "time" magazine
in the last couple weeks said, even as we look at the success of health care, we shouldn't minimize some of the shortcomings of his leadership that were in evidence in the course of that very difficult debate. >> a lot of people felt, a lot of voters felt that he took his eye off the ball, which was the economy. remember, 80% of american voters who have health care like it. we almost have a financial armageddon. the stimulus program helped avert that. when voters go to the poll, they care about the economy, they care about the economy, they care about the economy. jobs and the economy are the main thing on people's minds. i think now he's got to pivot and basically say what i'm about for the next year is the economy. the economy is changing. it ain't going to come back exactly like it was before. we're going to have to start savings, start exporting and that will be his message. it will mainly be a rhetorical message. dr. romer was trying to defend this. there's a limit to what the government can do to actually create jobs. creating 800,000 of them with
the census -- but that goes away in a few months. >> here is a question about his style of leadership, to say that president obama is not an inspirational figure would strike a lot of people as heresy. my question is has he found a way to reach people's hearts when it's not about him and his historic journey, when it's about them and their struggle? >> i don't want to get too gooy about this. he's a politician, out to make policy advances, policy victories. he doesn't have the same talents as ronald reagan or fdr. he is himself. there's a certain cool nsz to his affect. i think a lot of foreign leaders wonder why he's not in closer touch with them, where is the love, some of the israelis think in the last couple weeks. they've been struck by his rhett
skentsz. the question is what can we achieve? what are the major victories he can bring. he had a really historic victory we shouldn't forget on health care, despite the limitations of the bill itself. >> i thought it was interesting in terms of a political matter, rick, how he deals with the phenomenon of the tea party movement. here is a portion of what he said to matt lauer during the course of his interview about that. >> i wouldn't paint in broad brush and say that everybody who is involved or have gone to a tea party rally or a meeting are somehow on the fringe. some of them i think have some mainstream legitimate concerns. and my hope is that, as we move forward and we're tackling things like the deficit and imposing a freeze on domestic spending and taking steps that show we're sincere about dealing with our long-term problems, that some of that group will dissipate. >> how does he try to make sense of this politically, of this
movement that could hurt? >> there's the great famous american bumper sticker "i love my country, but i fear my government." that's what tea partiers are about, mainly republicans. there's this disenchantedment in the land with government as a whole. the gallup poll showed three-quarters of mayor conditions are disenchanted with governmental institutions. they're plucking people from that. the issues for republicans, democrats and barack obama in particular, how do you lure back those independents? more and more people are identifying themselves as independents, and how do i bring them back in? even to go back to your previous question, remember mario cuomo famously said we campaign in poetry and govern in prose. he has a government with more poetry to get those folks to. >> i want to talk about his ascent, his ambition, how we understand that and how that's playing out in his presidency thus far. david, your book deals with
something very central which is that for barack obama to become sort of well-situated as a man and ultimately as a political leader, he had to work out his own racial identity and come to terms with that. here is a portion where you talk about identity in the book, racial identity. you write this: even before he announced his candidacy obama was selective in talking about race. as the only african-american in the senate, it would have been natural for him to be the most constant voice on black issues, quote, unquote, structural inequality, affirmative action, poverty, drug laws, but he was determined to be a politician with a broad outlook and purpose. >> that maintains even now. i had an interview with him in the oval office right before he was going to deliver his inaugural address. we finished our interview. then he came out in the hallway and wanted to add something very specific because we had been talking about race quite a lot. he said it's not worth it to me
to talk about race when i have to improvise as he did with henry lewis gates junior with that arrest drama. when he's in control of the subject, can give a whole speech as he did in philadelphia during the campaign and he can get to all the nuances, he will talk about it. but basically he believes, look, i'm the president of the united states, i'm not president of black america, and i have to lift all votes, in kennedy's terms, in terms of economic improvement. i can't just focus my rhetoric or focus my policies on any one ethnic group. this has caused some problems with some of his former supporters and even supporters now. >> it's interesting, we actually found something from 1990, rick, where he was elected to president of harvard law review, very prestigious. he gets a lot of pickup in that. the associated press has an interview with him. this is somewhat he says. hopefully more and more people will begin to feel their store i have is somehow part of this larger story of how we're going to reshape america in a way less mean spirited and more generous.
this is 20 years ago. i really hope to be part of a transformation of this country and the future of black people and america generally? it depends on how good i do my job, he said. talk about somebody who seemed to have his head on about where he wanted to go ultimately. >> absolutely. i think even in his memoir he was thinking about that. he's in a sort of transformational figure between the melting pot america and patchwork quilt america in the sense that he identifies with both. melting pot, we're all americans, race, religion, creed. the patchwork quilt, we all have our separate identities. we're african-american, polish american. he wants to tran scend that. as david is saying, he's not a black politician but a politician that happens to be black. he wants us ought to be at the table no matter where we come from. what unites us is greater than what divides us. >> talk about nelson mandela who
you write about. there have to be obvious comparisons and certainly questions for mandela for what he thinks about obama? >> i saw him during the election, and it was before there was a nominee, and barack and hillary were opposed to each other. i asked mandela, who are you going to support? he's older now and he smiled at me and he went, i'm not going to go there, that universal symbol, you're trying to get me in trouble. i think he looks at obama as something very positive for the world. remember south africa is a place that almost had a racial civil war. the fact that nelson mandela is one of the greatest figures of the century is he averted armageddon, and he did it by preaching reconciliation. remember they were a majority that was disenfranchised. he spent most of his first year as president talking to whites saying basically we're in this together. there's a lot of similarity, a lot of similarity also in temperament. nelson mandela went to prison
when he was almost barack obama's age, there for 27 years. he was a hard-headed tempestuous revolutionary who went to prison and came out as this calm, measured man. obama's temperament is amazing, formed it without having to go to prison for 27 years which i wouldn't wish on anybody. there's some similarity there. i want to end with this, there's a "new yorker" cover that the president specifically liked. you write about it in the book. the four panes of president obama walking on water until the final pane when he actually falls into the water. and he liked it. you wrote, david, in the book that it was a sense that he didn't always believe his own hype. >> i think hi wanted to advise that he didn't believe his own hype. he has a substantial ego. and this cover came out before the great victory on health care. we sent him the cover, and barry blit signed it.
it said, dear mr. president, please keep dry. >> do you think he recognizes, in spite of enormous strength he brings to the office, do you think he's fully aware of what he doesn't know and what his vulnerabilities are. >> i think there are people that think he doesn't know what he doesn't know. i don't think that's fair. his style in meetings is of listening. he's not somebody who talks his way through a meeting. he makes sure everybody in the room has had their say and he processes it in a very deliberate, almost stylized way. i think he does take in a lot of information. >> rick, what do you think is the hardest thing he faces now post health care? >> i think he faces -- he has revitalized himself in his presidency. he has to have a new mission. he has to basically say, i'm not just a pragmatic politician, i'm a moral lead ner a way. what they've also done is hurt them, the sausage making process on display -- we all talked about how good transparency was,
it wasn't good for them. >> we'll leave it there, but we'll continue our discussion with david remnick and rick stengel, a little more about their new books in our "meet the press" take two web extra. it will be online this afternoon. you can read excerpts of "the bridge" and "mandela's way" on our website. you can see much more of david remnick when he appears for a special discussion on the "today" program tomorrow morning. we'll be right back with final thoughts on a big day in washington coming up tomorrow.
finally here, baseball is back. the season begins tonight, but the real action is right here in washington tomorrow when president obama makes his opening day pitching debut. of course, it's a rich tradition in washington of presidents tossing the first pitch of the season. saentry ago president taft did it for the washington senators. fdr in '38, kennedy and nixon. president george w. bush marked the debut of the nationals back in 2005. last year president obama sat out opening day and the nationals went on to lose 103 games. what a difference a year